cost-cutting consultants

Academies minister Lord Agnew is to leave the Department for Education, Schools Week understands.

The Tory peer has been promoted to the role of minister of state at both the Cabinet Office and Treasury.

His time at the DfE has proved divisive in the sector, as he has led the way on making sure schools operate more efficiently.

One of his most memorable moments was when he bet school leaders a bottle of champagne that he could identify more savings in their schools.

He also famously claimed schools should stop staff making colour photocopies to save money.

The move could also signify a shift in policy focus at the department. Some have claimed the academies programme has stalled in recent years.

Sam Freedman, a former adviser to Michael Gove while he was education secretary, tweeted Agnew’s departure “opens up the possibility of serious academies reforms, depending on who replaces him”.

Just this week Agnew announced a new service to provide “rapid feedback” on school spending.

In the letter, he said: “I hope by now that the whole system knows my priority: financial resources made available to schools should be used as effectively as possible. To be clear, this is not because I am taking a narrow financial view.”

His scheme to send cost-cutting advisers into struggling schools also provoked controversy after Schools Week revealed they urged one school to cut its lunch portion sizes for pupils and replace experienced teachers with support staff on term-time contracts.

But an evaluation report of the scheme published last month found for every £1 spent on the scheme schools had saved £13.

Elsewhere in the department, education secretary Gavin Williamson and schools minister Nick Gibb have both been reappointed.

Baroness Berridge, another Tory peer, has been appointed as an under-secretary of state at the DfE, but it is not yet known whether her responsibilities will mirror Agnew’s.